Memorandum by the British Road Federation
WHITE PAPER A NEW DEAL FOR TRANSPORT
About the BRF
The BRF is a business organisation representing
users and providers of the road network in the United Kingdom.
It is the only independent body dedicating its entire activity
and resources to this task. Directly and indirectly, through the
many trade associations that are members, BRF has the support
of tens of thousands of companies in many sectors of the economy.
BRF concentrate their activities on seven core
To campaign effectively for a higher
quality of service from UK road systems
To collect and present data aimed
at monitoring progress towards higher standards of service from
the road network
To contribute towards the setting
of higher service standards
To promote and manage research aimed
at identifying areas in which service standards are in need of
improvement and to propose solutions
To focus attention on the following
specific areas of service:
Journey time reliability
To support the provision of public
transport, cycling and pedestrian facilities
To support a new or improved road
where that is the best solution to a transport problem.
1. GENERAL OVERVIEW
1.1 BRF welcomes the first White Paper on transport
policy for 20 years, and is pleased that the Government has pledged
to make transport one of its key priorities. In its promotion
of "integrated transport" the Government hopes not only
to increase public transport use, reduce congestion and improve
the environment, but more broadly to help create "a fairer,
more inclusive society". The Government therefore recognizes
that transport is important not just in terms of economic policy
but also in helping achieve its social objectives.
1.2 BRF's overall assessment of the White Paper
is that it contains many of the elements which could be fused
into a coherent transport policy, but it remains unclear how that
is expected to happen, over what timescale and how it will be
funded. In particular the White Paper fails to recognize the importance
of investment in addressing Britain's transport problems. Early
evidence suggests that the projected under-investment in Britain's
transport infrastructure will mean that the Government's proposals
are unlikely to have a significant impact on levels of congestion
or modal shift.
1.3 Of equal concern is the lack of urgency
and political will in addressing serious long-term transport problems.
Many initiatives will not be operational until after the next
election, and other difficult decisions have been delegated to
local authorities or the Commission for Integrated Transport.
Many important road schemes which, by the Government's own criteria,
had a strong case for inclusion in the national programme have
been deferred to regional planning conferences with no immediate
action for dealing with these safety and congestion blackspots.
1.4 This submission does not attempt to address
all aspects of the White Paper. Instead it will focus on those
issues which BRF regard as of the highest priority both to the
transport sector as a whole, but the road network in particular.
It not only draws upon the White Paper, but also the Comprehensive
and the Roads Review.
Taken together these three documents provide the basis of the
Government's transport strategy for the foreseeable future.
2. TRANSPORT EXPENDITURE
2.1 The Government's stated intention of giving
transport policy a higher priority is put in context with the
publication of its public expenditure plans for the next three
years. On 14 July 1998 the Chancellor of the Exchequer presented
the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) to Parliament
announcing an increase of £1.8 billion for transport over
the next three years. Local transport and integrated transport
schemes would receive an extra £1.1 billion, while there
would be an increase in road expenditure of £700 million
to be targeted on maintenance. This increase is certainly welcome,
as it starts to reverse the cuts made to the transport and road
sectors in past years. However, closer scrutiny of the Government's
figures show that there will only be a minimal increase in real
terms, with the planned increases simply reflecting a re-organisation
of spending priorities.
2.2 The Government's expenditure table highlights
the arbitrary division of transport modes between "transport"
and London Underground, rail franchise payments, and the Channel
Tunnel Rail Link. Expenditure on this second area will fall over
the next three years as subsidies to the train operating companies
and London Underground are reduced. The figures show that the
Government is in fact taking out £339 million in the first
two years of the budget cycle and putting in £361 million
in the final year (calculated from the base year). Thus the overall
transport budget rises by only £22 million over the cycle.
|Spending plans £ million cash||1998-99
|Rail, CTRL, LUL||1,994
|Source: See Modern Public Services for Britain: Investing in Reform (CM 4011, HM Treasury, 1998: page 50).
2.3 Moreover, these figures are based on the assumption that
London Underground will be self-financing by the end of the decade.
Most commentators familiar with the problems of London Underground
believe this to be an unrealistic timetable, which might seriously
affect the above expenditure plans should the Government's figures
prove to be too optimistic.
3.1 BRF welcomes the decision to invest an extra £700
million in road maintenance over the next three years, in particular
the maintenance settlement for the Highways Agency. The Agency
has said that the increase in its maintenance budget, from £550
million in 1997-98 to £780 million in 2001-02, will enable
it to maintain trunk roads and motorways in a good condition with
the emphasis in the future being on preventative maintenance.
BRF believes that the Committee should seek clarification from
the Highways Agency on this point in view of the maps published
by the Agency showing the extent of the network with zero or near-zero
3.2 Far more worrying is the situation for local road maintenance.
The National Road Maintenance Condition Survey (NRMCS) already
shows that these are in a far worse state than trunk roads and
the situation is deteriorating at a rapid pace. As the Committee
has reported previously there is great concern among local authorities
that the NMRCS underestimates the extent of deterioration.
3.3 Although an extra £400 million is to be provided
over the next three years against a base expenditure of £1,850
million (£1,770 million SSA plus £80 million TSG) in
1998-99, the budget for 2001-02 of £2,085 million (£1,905
million SSA plus £180 million TSG) represents a far smaller
increase (12.7 per cent) than that provided for trunk roads (42
per cent) over the same period. The TSG-element of the increase,
which is ring-fenced for use on primary routes, will be very useful
for this part of the network but for the 90 per cent of local
roads that are not primary the extra money will do little more
than keep pace with inflation and there will be little chance
of reducing the maintenance backlog. There is the additional problem
that as this money is not ring-fenced it may be raided for other
purposes. BRF believes that there should be more controls to prevent
3.4 In recent evidence to the Environment, Transport and
the Regions Select Committee (ETRSC) the Department for the Environment,
Transport and the Regions (DETR) argued that local authorities
were seeking to keep their roads, particularly the less important
ones, in too good a condition. The DETR has challenged the assessments
made by the Local Government Association and others that the backlog
of local road maintenance is in the order of £4-£5 billion.
BRF endorse the ETRSC recommendations in their report published
on 17 August which called on the Government to provide its own
estimate of the backlog and to produce a 10-year plan to eliminate
3.5 BRF is concerned about the lack of official data on local
authority maintenance expenditure. The Department of Transport
collected this information until the mid-1990s but BRF understands
difficulties in gathering the information led to a decision to
drop the survey. In view of the importance of road maintenance
and the substantial amounts of public money involved BRF believes
that DETR should make efforts to re-introduce the collection of
4. THE IMPACT
4.1 The White Paper and the Roads Review seek to chart a
new direction for roads policy. Heralding the end of "predict
and provide", the Government's stated priority is to make
better use of the existing network before constructing any new
roads. However the White Paper does not appear to provide and
immediate solutions to the problem of congestion on the national
network. There appears to be an acceptance that, on the inter-urban
road network at least, the main task for the foreseeable future
will be to manage the growth in traffic volumes and congestion.
It does not seem that the DETR has found the key to unlocking
the linkage between growth in the economy and growth in traffic,
although it may be succeeding in ensuring that traffic grows less
quickly than the economy rather than faster as it has done for
most of the century.
4.2 The White Paper and the Roads Review are designed to
limit the number of journeys made by road and encourage alternative
modes of transport. Within urban areas it is certainly possible
to increase bus use, cycling and walking, but there are fewer
alternatives for inter-urban travel. The growth of budget airlines
may ease the pressure on key routes (such as London-Glasgow or
London-Manchester), but passenger numbers are unlikely to be significant
and are as likely to take passengers away from rail. Moreover,
the White Paper and the Roads Review suggest that it will be difficult
to increase rail capacity to ease congestion on the road network.
The White Paper (see Annex F) shows that the bottlenecks on the
rail network are in exactly the same place as the bottlenecks
in the road network. Although the Railtrack investment programme
announced earlier this year will deal with some of the problems
many others will remain.
4.3 Research commissioned by BRF from transport@cebra
specialist transport studies unit established at the Centre for
Economic and Business Research in order to develop the range of
initiatives in the Government's White Papersuggests that
the Government's proposals are unlikely to arrest the problem
of inter-urban congestion.
On the contrary, congestion is likely to worsen steadily over
the coming years. The study argues that the White Paper provides
the right frameworkthe framework of integrated transportbut
not, as yet, the content to solve the problem. It states that
an effective solution to the problem of congestion on the inter-urban
network will need to include a combination of more efficient road
pricing, a higher level of investment and a greater degree of
4.4 The transport@cebr study notes that significant congestion
on the inter-urban network is a problem that afflicts only one
other EU state (Spain) and has arisen in the UK largely as a result
of a legacy of under-investment. On the basis of current spending
plans, the Government's proposals will not reverse this process.
Investment in trunk roads and motorway infrastructure improvements
is set to fall from an average of £1 billion in the mid-1990s
to £0.3 billion for the three years 1999-2000 to 2001-02.
By comparison the study estimates that there will be "an
increase of only around £25 million per annum in expenditure
aimed at securing modal shift of inter-urban traffic from road
to railthe only mode to which a significant shift of inter-urban
traffic can be envisaged".
Running the Government's spending plans through CEBR's multi-modal
traffic model, TRAVMOD, the study calculates that inter-urban
congestion will increase by 29 per cent by 2021.
4.5 Moreover, the Government's decision to defer so many
important road schemes to regional planning conferences will do
little to address the serious transport problems in those areas.
The publication of Appraisal Summary Tables (ASTs) for 67 of the
schemes addressed in the Roads Review also acknowledges that public
transport is unlikely to alleviate problems on some of the core
routes. For example, the ASTs show that a modal shift to rail
is unlikely to reduce congestion on the M1 and M6, which makes
the Government's decision to defer these road improvements particularly
puzzling. In none of these cases are there any major environmental
negatives, although most would, by the Government's own figures,
bring strong economic benefits to areas such as the midlands and
the north west.
4.6 The Government developed a new approach to appraisal,
assessing each road scheme by five criteria: environmental impact,
safety, economy, accessibility, and integration. The aim was "to
develop a clear and open framework to appraise and inform the
prioritisation of trunk road investment proposals".
However, although the criteria are judged both qualitatively and
quantitatively, there lacks a set of principles or guidelines
outlining how the criteria were to be applied to decide which
schemes would be given the go-ahead, which were to be deferred,
and which were to be dropped. As a result some of the decisions
in the Roads Review appear arbitrary. For example, the A63 is
given the go-ahead in Selby despite slight or moderate negatives
on three of the six environmental criteria, but with large positives
on accessibility criteria. But the A47 Thorney bypass is referred
to an RPC, despite having a slightly positive environmental outcome
and large positives on the accessibility criteria. Why one scheme
was given the go-ahead but not the other is unclear from the ASTs
or accompanying documents.
4.7 Although the Government should be given credit for trying
to make the policy-making process more transparent, the thinking
behind some decisions lacks clarity and consistency. This only
reinforces the perception that the results of the Roads Review
were less the outcome of a radical new approach to appraisal and
more the consequences of seeking to pare the programme to meet
the budget agreed with the Treasury.
5. THE IMPACT
5.1 Urban problems have essentially been handed to local
authorities to manage. Within England about 150 local transport
plans are to be prepareda detailed announcement is still
awaited from the DETR on exactly how these plans will work but
it is envisaged that a system similar to the current TPP structure
would operate. Government support for the local transport plans
and for the support of local buses is planned to rise substantially
over the next three years.
|Spending plans £ million cash||1998-99
|Source: DETR Press Release £1.8 billion for Roads, Rail and Local Public Transport, 20 July 1998, No. 606.
5.2 Though this is only restoring the levels of support for
local transport which had reached £1,154 million in 1994-95
but then fell off dramatically in the second half of the 1990s.
Assuming the Government's inflation target of 2.5 per cent per
annum is met, the plan for expenditure in 2001-02 will only be
about 4 per cent higher in real terms than the funding provided
5.3 As noted above, funding the increase in support for local
transport over the next three years will be met by reducing the
support for transport programmes in London (primarily funding
for London Underground as the Jubilee Line Extension is completed)
and the train operating companies. Over the next three years funding
for these will reduce by £1.65 billion. It is of course the
Government's hope that these reductions will be replaced by increased
farebox revenue and the success of the private funding initiatives.
5.4 One of the key features of the White Paper/Roads Review
is the suggestion that up to 40 per cent of the network be de-trunked
and control handed over to local authorities. BRF share the concerns
of many local authorities regarding these proposals. Several have
made it clear that they are unhappy about taking responsibility
for roads which they regard as being of national importance. Others
will require a substantial dowry to protect them against future
maintenance costs. There is also concern amongst road users about
the extent to which existing standards will be sustained on de-trunked
roads both in relation to maintenance and unrestricted access
for commercial vehicles.
6. PERFORMANCE INDICATORS
6.1 Although the White Paper promises to extend the range
of targets and indicators, it is unclear as to how they are to
be used, developed, or monitored.
6.2 Road users do not currently get a good deal from the
road network. Despite contributing over £30 billion in 1997-98
road users are not guaranteed minimum standards of service, and
nor is there a mechanism whereby users and managers can compare
the performances of different sections of the network. Although
there has been a gradual shift towards a more customer-focused
approach, beginning with the Citizen's Charter and the Road User's
Charter, nothing substantial has developed from this. The main
use of performance targets by the Government at present are to
monitor the performance of the Highways Agency in implementing
policy rather than addressing the performance of the network itself.
6.3 Performance indicators should be used to measure the
impact of the road network on a range of desired outcomes which
are clearly specified. Developed in consultation with user groups
and others PIs can reflect the aims and objectives of the road
system, highlighting those sections of the network that are under-performing
and/or where investment is most needed. PIs could also help spread
best practice by allowing for comparisons between different sections
of the network, and help set minimum standards of servicebenchmarksto
which road users should be entitled.
6.4 The Government could draw upon the work conducted by
the OECD on PIs for the road sector as well as the practical experience
of Australia and New Zealand. The OECD's work highlights the need
to take into account the interests of politicians, managers, and
users in constructing a comprehensive and useful set of PIs. The
experience of Australia and New Zealand provides useful lessons
on how a programme can be developed and implemented in practice.
BRF are currently consulting on how a similar programme could
be developed for the UK.
7. A ROADS INSPECTOR
7.1 BRF were very disappointed that the White Paper made
no provision for a Roads Inspector. Most public services which
remain in state hands have some form of inspection, such as Ofsted
for our schools and the Prisons Inspectorate, to provide an independent
assessment of quality of service and help ensure high standards
and to promote best practice. More recently, it was suggested
that there should be a Housing Inspector to monitor the standards
of public sector housing being constructed. There is no such institution
to scrutinise the quality of service provided by the network.
The role of a Roads Inspector might include:
setting the standards users could expect from
the road network;
monitoring the performance of those responsible
for road services; and
focusing attention on those sections of the network
that were poorly maintained or had accident or environment problems.
7.2 The Government have pledged that they are committed to
getting more out of the existing network before building more
roads. They are also committed to halting the decline in the condition
of the road network and so it is important that the modest increase
in maintenance expenditure is targeted effectively. While the
updating of the Road User's Charter outlined in the White Paper
is worthwhile, it can be no substitute for an independent authority
to identify poor service quality or spread best practice.
8. ROAD PRICING
8.1 BRF accepts that road pricing could be an important tool
in helping to combat congestion and pollution, as well as generate
an alternative revenue stream to fund investment, and therefore
welcomes the Government's decision to launch a number of pilot
studies on both urban and inter-urban schemes. There remain a
number of potential problems with introducing road pricing, such
as how to deal with diverted traffic, who to exempt, and what
technology to adopt. None of these problems is insurmountable,
although all will need to be addressed before its widespread introduction.
BRF will be responding to the forthcoming consultation document
on road pricing and are happy to work with the Government and
others to find effective solutions to these problems as quickly
8.2 It is essential that the revenues raised from road-pricing
be ear-marked for investment in the transport infrastructure.
Moreover, this money should be additional to existing transport
budgets for benefits to be also felt by road users. It is also
important that new performance standards be introduced alongside
new charging regimes, laying down the minimum standards of service
that the charge-payer can expect. If road users have to pay a
premium price, they will demand a premium service.
8.3 Alongside the Government's plans for introducing pilot
schemes the European Commission have also brought forward proposals
for the introduction of an EU-wide system of road pricing for
commercial vehicles by 2004. The White Paper, Fair Payment
for Infrastructure Use, looks to replace the current patchwork
of tax and charging systems by a common regime which would both
help complete the European Single Market and ease congestion in
member states. It is argued that charges should correspond to
marginal social costs which reflect the cost of putting an extra
vehicle on the road, including external costs such as pollution.
Although the EU White Paper only relates to commercial vehicles,
it will be left to member states to decide whether to apply these
charges to motorists.
8.4 As part of the research commissioned by BRF, the transport
@cebr study ran two scenarios through the TRAVMOD stimulator for
the UK. Scenario One was based upon the policies contained in
the Government's White Paper, and the limits of the current spending
plans. Scenario Two was based upon an agenda of further action,
incorporating elements from the EU White Paper and its timetable
for implementation. It includes the adoption in 2004 of a higher
level of investment in road infrastructure and road pricing for
both motorists and commercial vehicles, with charges set at an
average of 20p per km and rising in line with average earnings.
There is a significant difference in outcome. Under Scenario One
congestion will continue to worsen relative to the current situationby
as much as 29 per cent by 2021. Under Scenario Two congestion
falls sharply in 2005 a 20 per cent improvement over the
state of things todayand remains better than it is today
right through to 2021.
8.5 Although Scenario Two shows a significant improvement
in levels of congestion it should not be read as an exact prescription.
The EU timetable for road pricing is optimistic. It is unlikely
that a national or international system of road pricing to replace
vehicle excise duty and fuel duty will be in place by 2004. Moreover,
the price changes and investment levels assumed in Scenario Two
are not meant to be any more than illustrative. There are many
other possible scenarios, both from computer modelling and the
results of actual pilot studies, which will give us a fuller picture
of how problems such as congestion are best tackled. What the
transport@cebr analysis does suggest is that road pricing, along
with more investment (which could be generated from the charges
themselves), is likely to play a part in solving the problems
facing road transport. The extent of this will be dependent upon
future research results which BRF will be monitoring closely.
9. THE TRANSPORT
9.1 As part of the roads review the Government announced
that a series of transport problems would be remitted to the appropriate
Regional Planning Conference (RPC) or that the Government would
commission a "clean sheet of paper study" to consider
how particular problems could be dealt with. It is the DETR's
intention that the studies announced by the Government will be
commissioned fairly quickly (within six to nine months) and would
be expected to make recommendations back to Ministers within two
years. At this stage it is still unclear exactly how the various
studies will be implemented, although BRF understands that recommendations
for action from the RPCs or studies will be presented for a decision
to the Secretary of State.
9.2 The status of the RPCs and their recommendations is at
present uncertain. A number of schemes which have been referred
address key sections of the national network, some of which require
serious investment. However, it is unclear how a recommendation
from an RPC to address a particular problem not in current investment
plans, e.g., the electrification of the London to Bristol/South
Wales main line or widening the M6 from Birmingham to Manchester,
would be funded. The Government should make it clear whether it
will endeavour to implement all solutions suggested by RPCs, or
whether their scope will be restricted by budgetary or other constraints.
9.3 Although the principle behind the decision to remit these
problems to local consideration is sound, it is of concern that
there will be further delay before any real action is taken to
deal with these problems. Given that it will be three years before
proposals are made to the Secretary of State there is a danger
that little or no action to deal with the problem will be seen
for 10 to 15 during which time the existing problems are likely
to get considerably worse.
10. ENVIRONMENTAL IMPROVEMENTS
10.1 Much of BRF's work in recent years has focused on securing
environmental improvements to roads, and we therefore welcome
the provision in the White Paper for higher environmental standards
for existing, as well as new, roads. It is now accepted that there
will be a presumption in favour of quiet surface materials for
all new and resurfaced trunk roads. The Highways Agency is also
to get a budget, as yet unspecified, to improve older roads not
in immediate need of maintenance with quiet surfaces, acoustic
barriers and other measures. This is a significant step towards
achieving the BRF's objectives outlined in the report Old Roads
to Green Roads.
11.1 The White Paper has many laudable intentions. Few would
dispute the need to reduce congestion, encourage more people to
use public transport, and improve the environment. However, it
is doubtful whether the policies outlined in the White Paper and
Roads Review will help the Government achieve its objectives.
11.2 The recent Government announcements promised to provide
a period of certainty and stability to transport policy, but in
reality there is much left unresolved. Contentious issues and
decisions have been deferred to local authorities, the Commission
of Integrated Transport, and RPCs. The most radical suggestion
of all, road pricing on urban and inter-urban roads, will go out
to consultation. There is unlikely to be legislation until the
end of this Parliamentary session at least, with little action
until midway through the next decade.
11.3 Despite claims that transport has become one of the
Government's main priorities, Britain's transport system will
remain chronically under-funded. While the Government's decision
to allow the DETR to keep the savings from subsidy reductions
to rail franchisees and London Underground, the real increase
of £22 million over three years will do little to reverse
the investment backlog in both road and rail. Until this serious
problem is addressed, the Government is unlikely to achieve its
transport, economic, and social objectives.
Modern Public Services for Britain: Investing in Reform
(Cm 4011, HM Treasury, 1998). Back
A New Deal for Trunk Roads (DETR, 1998). Back
The New Deal and the Problem of Inter-Urban Congestion
(transport@cebr, 1998). Back
The New Deal and the Problem of Inter-Urban Congestion
(p. 3). Back
A New Deal for Trunk Roads: Guidance on the New Approach to
Appraisal (DETR, 1998: para 1.1). Back
See A New Deal for Trunk Roads in England: Guidance on the
New Approach to Appraisal and Understanding the New Approach
to Appraisal: Complete Set of the Appraisal Summary Tables
(DETR, 1998). Back